Thursday, July 18, 2013

Little Eyes in the Sky

Matariki (photo from New Zealand Tourism Website, 100% Pure New Zealand)
Matariki, or 'little eyes' in Māori, refers to the cluster of stars known as Pleiades which rise in mid-winter each year.  When Matariki rises in the skies of New Zealand, it marks the start of a new year for Māori. Traditionally, Matariki marked the end of the harvest and the beginning of the planting season.  Today it seems to incorporate the themes of remembering those who have departed and a celebration of new beginnings.

According to the New Zealand Tourism Website, this weekend will mark the end of the month-long celebration of Māori New Year.   Apparently, there have been celebration events around the country, none of which I've attended, oddly enough.  I suppose I've had my own personal remembrance though as I've been thinking a lot about family and those most important to me in the last month.  I think this is one of those things that happen when you move your life to the other side of the world with no family or close friends around you.  They may be far away, but at least we're all under the same sky.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

It's All Relative

Mason

Yesterday there was a story on the national 6pm television news about a new 24-hour cable network for dogs.  No, I didn't make a typo.  Yes, you did read correctly.  Dogs.  Canines.  Man's (and woman's) best friends.

Apparently, the TV station is meant to provide dog owners with a means of babysitting, or shall I say, dog-sitting.  Who is this for?  It's meant to be for dog owners who need to keep their dogs occupied when they are busy or away.  Interesting idea, as I know many of us have witnessed dogs watching TV.  Having not had a canine companion since I was a little girl, I haven't had to concern myself with this for years.  But I have heard many stories about dog owners coming home to messy homes due to their beloved dog who got bored during the day.

As a side note, this doesn't seem to happen as frequently with cats.  Cats seem to be given more freedom than dogs.  My evidence of this is what is becoming ever more and more frequent - daily visits from my neighbor's cat, who just spent all afternoon with me laying in the sun.  But back to the dogs ...

The video footage that accompanied this news feature was amusing, adorable even, especially if you're a dog lover.  But the question did come up while watching this ... where the hell is this?  To which my Kiwi mate answered, it has to be in America.   "You know there are only two places in the world that would create a television station for dogs.  Those two places are America and Japan."

Now I've been known to get my back up to such an inference about America.  (Sensitive though I may sometimes be about my homeland, I do have good reason which I won't go into now.  Have no fear though.  I'm sure to blog about this in the near future.  I can feel it coming.)  But I couldn't really debate my mate's comment.  All I could muster was ... "But what about Britain?  I understand they are very keen about their dogs."

The conversation continued ... "Yes, but only in America and Japan do they seem to dress up  their dogs in silly outfits and colour their fur."  Again, I couldn't debate.  It didn't help matters that only weeks earlier, we had seen another news feature about a 'trend' in America (California, no less ... ugh!).  The trend they were talking about was people 'decorating' their white poodles with ornaments and dieing their fur multiple colours ... day-glo colours even.  Needless to say, I was quiet when we watched that story and actually felt myself sinking in my seat.

I think feeling that a boundary may have been crossed, my mate started to backpedal.  (At least, that's the way I chose to see it.)  "Well, the numbers are probably the same.  What is the population of America?  The ratio of how many people dress-up their dogs is probably the same in Britain as it is in America.  It's just that America is so big that the numbers are bigger.  It's really all relative, isn't it?"

Okay, I'll take that, I thought to myself.  I mean, what else could I say?  How could I argue with that?  Remembering that I've been reminded by Kiwi mates that America does seem to be the only nation in the world that can make a TV programme out of anything, I came up with the following ... "Oh well, I guess America really is the land of opportunity."  No comeback from the Kiwi mate. 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Super Moon

Photo by Neil Protheroe, posted on Facebook by New Zealand 100% Pure.  The June 23 2013 Super Moon over the ocean off Kaikoura, the South Island of New Zealand.

The polar blast that hit New Zealand over the past week finally subsided a bit today.  I'm finally coming right from the flu/cold I've had since last week and decided it was time to get out a bit in the sunshine.  Driving around I could see the evidence of the storm as the river is high and brown, the bay is brown from that same river, trees are down and debris is all around.  The country definitely took a beating.  I heard in the news that the country's capital, Wellington, had over 1,000 emergency calls on Friday night and that over 25,000 homes were without power. 

Luckily, today was a much clearer day.  Just in time for the Super Moon tonight.  Here is a photo I found online (see photo caption above) of the Super Moon over Kaikoura on the east coast of the South Island, north of Christchurch.  Kaikoura is such a beautiful place.  For me, it's a definite must-see if you're going to visit New Zealand ... or even if you already live here.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Ba - a - a - a - a - h, ha ha ... only in New Zealand


I told myself when I started blogging again that I would try to keep to as much original content as possible, but this article was too good not to share.  It appeared online today on www.news.com.au and is authored by Anthony Sharwood.

The caption reads: "Sheesh, it's a sheepish sheep asleep in a sled."

Only in New Zealand:  Miracle sheep survive snowpocalypse 

  • NZ experiences near record snowfalls
  • Ski patrollers at Treble Cone skifield discover 3 lost sheep
  • They're almost buried but still alive.  It's an ovine miracle!
THIS could have been a story with a really ba-a-a-a-a-d ending.  Instead, it is a warm and wooly tale about the greatest sheep rescue in New Zealand's history.

And trust us, there have been plenty.  
 
Picture the scene.  It has been snowing like crazy in New Zealand all week.  Snowing and snowing and snowing some more.
 
While Australian ski resorts struggle to kick start the season due to lack of snow, Kiwi skifields are struggling to open because there's too much snow to clear.

Meanwhile, a farmer near Lake Wanaka on the South Island is missing three sheep.  We'll return to the sheep in a minute.

At Treble Cone ski resort, just above Lake Wanaka, there's been so much snow this week, ski patrollers have been doing extra "control" work.  That's snow talk for checking the snowpack for avalanche danger and setting off small slides before the skifield opens to the public.

So three patrollers are up there at the top of Treble Cone's Saddle Basin when they see a small mound in the snow. There's been heaps of fresh snow recently.  Everything is covered.  Why is there a mound there?  There's no logical reason for a mound in that particular spot.

On closer inspection, the mound has wool.  It also has eyes.  Astonishingly, the mound has a heartbeat.  The mound is a sheep, and the sheep is alive.  Even more astonishingly, two more mounds are discovered.  And all three mounds are alive.  All three mounds are sheep.

The caption reads ... "Counting sheep...they found the first one on the left."



The cheeky story doesn't end here.  To see more photographs and read more about it, click here.



Thursday, June 20, 2013

Batten Down the Hatches

Hoar Frost in Central Otago


Sound the alarm.   A storm is coming.  This is the gist of the national news headlines and reports for the past two days.  This isn’t really news though.  This is about the time it happens every year.  Winter has arrived in New Zealand.

It’s an interesting time of year for a woman who lived her early childhood years in tropical locations and whose family settled in California, Southern California to be precise.   I can remember Christmas day celebrated in 90 degree Fahrenheit temperatures wearing shorts and being barefoot!  That isn’t to say that Southern California doesn’t experience winter weather and temperatures.  The geography does include deserts, mountains and valleys besides beaches, and the local mountains do get snow every winter.  But living somewhere that actually has four seasons, one of them being a real winter outside your door, is different.

I arrived in New Zealand in late March 2008.  Summer was over in Queenstown.  Autumn had arrived.   April and May rolled in shortly afterward … a time when more affluent Queenstown residents escape.  (And there are more of them than you would think.)  It’s one of two shoulder seasons where tourist numbers drop.  Being that Queenstown is a tourist town and the crown jewel of NZ tourism (according to the national tourism body, Tourism New Zealand), it’s a time when tourism operators drop their prices, locals’ specials are advertised and many residents go on holiday to escape the ‘grey’ of the season.  Then June rolls around, and the buzz begins.   Snow is coming, which means the town’s population will probably more than double over the next few months as heaps of skiers and snowboarders arrive from Australia and the Northern Hemisphere.  

Well, that time is now.  The snow has already arrived in Queenstown being that it is in the southern part of the South Island, and most storms come from the North Pole.  Facebook posts from locals were already saying yesterday afternoon that the two local grocery stores were out of bread.  Some cheeky (and clever!) bugger had already posted a loaf of bread for sale at $200 … which actually isn’t that much more than what you’d pay in the grocery store.  (I’m just joking here, but the cost of living in Queenstown is incredibly high.  I’ll save this topic for another time.)

The news is on the television, and the weather reports have said that the storm is going to hit the entire country.  There’s even some talk that snow could fall in Wellington and Auckland, the two largest cities on the North Island.  I’m sitting here tucked up under a blanket wearing slipper boots, nursing a cold.  The winds are blowing hard outside.  The storm isn’t making its way, it has arrived.  But there’s a loaf of bread baking in the oven and soon I’ll be noshing on a slice smothered in New Zealand butter.


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

What I Will Become


Thank you, Steve Jobs.  Thank you for this reminder, for this inspiration.  "Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition, they somehow already know what you truly want to become."  These are strong words, words that resonate so deeply, so strongly with me these days.

When I started this adventure over five years ago, I was on a journey to change my life.  At the time, I was working for a large international technology corporation.  I got there because the small, start-up software company I worked for was acquired by this large corporate.  I was working a lot, too much.  I had no personal life anymore.  Job satisfaction was little, and there was quite a bit of stress.  I often had to remind myself that we weren't curing cancer or even doing anything really important to help others live a better life.  Where was the meaning in this work?

It wasn't an easy decision to make to leave a job that paid a good salary, provided multiple benefits, gave me opportunities to travel, taught me a lot, and looks good on a CV.  Resigning was a bit like cutting the lifeline to home and security.  But it was time to follow my heart. Something else was calling me.  Maybe it was that inner voice that Jobs refers to.

You see, when I was a teenager, people used to tell me what they thought I would be doing later in life.  There were two things in particular that always came up, and they both had to do with helping others.  I'm not doing either of these things.

I think back now to what they said and realize they were right.  How did they know?  How did they know even back then that helping improve the lives of others was work that I would find important, work that I would want to do.  More importantly, how did I stray from that?  Well, I know what happened, and I know when I knew I had to change it.

Since I resigned from that company, I've been trying to follow my heart to finding work in NZ that is meaningful to me. In Queenstown, I was told that I could reinvent myself.  There's a lot of truth in that statement, and I had been somewhat successful in that regard.  The last full-time 'project' I was working on in Queenstown was near and dear to my heart.  It fit the bill for what was needed, what I think of as meaningful work to affect change.  But that inner voice spoke up again.  The heart and intuition were telling me something.  So the journey continues.

I had two disappointments regarding the work journey this week.   Then I saw this quote by Steve Jobs again.  It reminded me that things happen for a reason.  Sure enough, by the afternoon, I had received more news, more positive this time.  So I'm following my intuition on this one, and we'll see what happens.